Siena Heights Students Unite to Create Multi-Touch Computer Screen
(Note: This cover story appeared in the April 2009 edition of "Campus Connection," a collaborative publication of colleges and universities in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
Imagine the iPhone on steroids.
That is a concept a new, technology-oriented student group at Siena Heights University is developing.
Using what is called multi-touch technology, students from different academic disciplines have joined intellectual forces to form Computer Physics United (CPU). Recently they created a “hands-on” computer screen that operates with a touch of a finger.
“Multi-touch in a way is like an iPhone,” said group organizer Joel Parrish of the cellular phone that has revolutionized the mobile phone industry. “Its principles are the same. You do computing with multiple touches. You can look at pictures, and instead of clicking on a button to zoom in, you just take your fingers and pinch or pull, like you would in real life. It’s more about making the experience more natural.”
Parrish, a junior Computer and Information Systems major at SHU, first thought he could create the multi-touch screen on his own, but soon realized he needed help in areas like physics, mathematics – even art. He and fellow CIS major Daniel Pitts and physics major Nick Voicechovski formed CPU in the hope of accomplishing common goals.
“We started from scratch,” Voicechovski said. “We’re not part of a company. We’re just three guys who put our heads together and decided to go with it.”
Using a trial-and-error process, CPU recently created its first multi-touch screen – for less than $200.
“Everyone has a part in it,” Parrish said of the project process. “Everyone has different skills they bring, and through that we worked out all the kinks and got a working model.”
Voicechovski addressed the physics/chemistry/mathematics elements of the project, while Parrish was credited as the “genius” behind it all.
Although the CPU group is just a few months old, members have already attracted the attention of the NUI Group, a national interactive technology media organization. NUI invited CPU members to its Interactive Displays Conference in Silicon Valley, Calif.
Group members said the collaboration of diverse academic interests has had unexpected benefits. After completing a web design class last fall, Parrish, a hard-core programmer, said he has a new appreciation for art.
“It made me think on the art side of things,” he said. “Art students, and teachers, too, give you the next idea, the next big thing.”
That next big thing could be a program Parrish is writing. Still in the early stages, he said it could take the concept of a “smart” phone to the next level.
“You can set your phone on the (multi-touch screen) table, and it will connect to your phone and will drop your pictures on the table,” Parrish explained. “If another person puts their phone on the table, you can take the picture with your finger and drag it to their phone, and it will be put on their phone. It’s a new way of sharing.”
Voicechovski said the group’s main goal is to increase its numbers.
“We don’t want to stop,” he said. “We want to pull more minds together and keep going and see how far we can get.”
“There’s really no limit right now with what you can do with multi-touch,” Parrish said. “The only limit is your mind. It’s really emerging. People are thinking of new things to do with it.”